Social Media Worth Spreading

Jun 27, 2015

The room was full of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials during the social media session that opened up PRNDI's main conference in Salt Lake City this year. Some tapped away on their smartphones while others scribbled with pen and paper. Bottom line, all of them were taking notes and posting about the tool many of us tend to underestimate: social media.

The panel consisted of Kelsey Proud (St. Louis Public Radio), Andi McDaniel (Twin Cities Public Television), and May Chow (LinkedIn). It was moderated by  NPR’s Wright Bryan.

In case you didn’t have the time to swim through the sea of #PRNDISocial, here are the main takeaways from “Social Media Worth Spreading.”

Providing Platforms For Conversation

Audience storytelling is a strength to be used within newsrooms. It allows for collaboration between journalists and those outside the newsroom. Following last year's Ferguson shooting, Kelsey Proud of St. Louis Public Radio utilized live blogging and Document Cloud to create a "quiet space" for the audience to share its views. She said people were expressing their opinions and were able to do so through platforms already on the web. Not only was there a space for hosting conversations between users via social, but audience input also contributed to her own coverage of the event.

"We need to think about what people need rather than the holes we need to fill," Proud said. Connecting them digitally was a way to cater to their needs and connect with them directly. She said it's not a perfect process but social media is worth it because it's a team effort - in and outside the newsroom.

Hashtags Strengthen Community Engagement

Andi McDaniel is working on Rewire, an initiative aiming to revamp public television. Prior to the project, less than one percent of Twin Cities Public Television's 90,000 pledges were Millennials or Gen Xers. Rewire wanted to change that by creating content more relevant to this demographic. McDaniel found a better way to engage younger audiences by combining the ingredients to the "secret formula": digital content, live events, broadcast content, and social media.


How did she do it? 

To increase viewership of a new show on Rewire, the hashtag #CardboardHarMar was created based on the celebrity surrounding the musician. A cardboard cutout of a character named Har Mar was brought around to different locations and viewers were encouraged to take pictures and videos with him. "You can take social media out into the wild," McDaniels said. The hashtag provided a live, engaging way for the viewers to interact with each other and the station. Viewers then created their own digital content through social media which supported the success of the broadcast content. The project expanded and over the last several years the number of pledges coming from younger viewers has gone up to about ten percent.

In the newsroom, big decisions are made in short amounts of time. These decisions need to be even more quick and concise with digital, especially through Twitter, which limits posts to 140 characters. Hashtags force precision. They are simple tools for engaging the community and help when filtering through materials -- making them a great tool for your newsroom. 

LinkedIn As A News Source

LinkedIn is used by many of us to stay updated with job opportunities. May Chow of LinkedIn said the site is also a resource for journalists. She said the site offers an alternative method for finding news sources. "Join community pages and see who's the most active," Chow said. Just enter your city and county and then go looking for the groups listed on in those areas. 

Overall, the main focus of the session was how important it is for everyone in the newsroom to be participating in social media. "Those in charge of social media serve as the river guides but everyone has to paddle," Proud said.